8/31/2011

Cut Your Electric Bills with Solar Energy -- Is It For You?


Solar energy panels may warm your water, which can lower your water heating costs, or cut your overall cost of electricity.  Solar panels collect solar radiation from the sun and convert that energy to electricity. At first blush, the panels sound great, but look further--buying them outright would be a pretty big investment for most homeowners, and then there's the leasing option, which cuts upfront costs but has other features.

the City of Los Angeles is starting up its rebate program again tomorrow, which will cover about 30% of the total cost, down from the earlier 50% coverage.  Per a recent Los Angeles Times article, a 5-kilowatt system costs about $35,000--with a 30% rebate, the owner will recoup the cost in 13-15 years.

Leasing agreements account for about half of the California market, and California accounts for about half of the country solar installations.  The lowered rebates, however, have also caused upfront costs for leases to increase to $4000 and $5000, so it's not so attractive for many potential customers. To reduce that upfront cost, leasing companies would have to increase their leasing fees, which will have the total effect of a monthly increase in montly electric bills, not a decrease. Solar panel leasing companies have a less exciting outlook in some cases.

Over time more companies in the business in California selling more panels will eventually make costs lower--already the panels are less expensive than in 2010, but labor costs have not come down from 2010.

Another option are thin-film solar panels which generate half the electricity and cost abouty 10% more than the standard flat panels, but have the advantage of being lighter and being more flexible in shape.

For now, research the sources offering solar panels and program costs. Going Green is good for the environment, but it does have costs attached.

Rebates - City of Long Beach for solar water heat
                City of Los Angeles for solar panels
Southern California Edison also offers a program for its customers for home or business use.
For additional federal tax credits and additional savings, see the information at U.S. Department of Energy.

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